[Update 5:43 p.m. PT: Former Houston Rockets players Yao Ming denies effort to purchase Los Angeles Clippers; "I just heard about it in the morning my time," Yao said Saturday via email, according to Houston Chronicles. "I really don't know where this news came from."]
Apparently Former NBA star Yao Ming is among the ever expanding group of investors interested in buying the Los Angeles Clippers. "Yao Ming is putting together a group of wealthy Chinese investors to make a serious run at the Clips" , Grantland's Bill Simmons tweeted yesterday.
Last week, ostracized current owner Donald Sterling made news again as he prepared a legal defense to supposedly fight the sale of the team, but this week it's being reported that he has turned the team over to his wife Shelly, and she will negotiate the sale of the team. Some estimates put the teams value at between $1-2 billion.
Ming is an extremely wealthy individual, but he will need partners if he is going to purchase the team. Since retiring from professional basketball in 2011, the Chinese ex-superstar has emerged as a serious investor in China's tech industry.
Ming is no stranger to owning sports franchises either, particularly basketball teams. Back in 2009, Yao purchased his former Chinese Professional team, the Shanghai Sharks and has helped to make the team profitable again. Unlike many former pros, Ming has made wise investments since his retirement and now has a net worth of around $150 million.
As for the NBA, adding a Chinese ownership group backed by one of the most popular international player in league history is a pretty nice deal. Commissioner Adam Silver has made it clear he looks to expand the NBA beyond North America, and replacing the Sterling ownership with a Yao-based group would go far in making that a reality.
This isn't the first NBA team Ming has tried to acquire, as he was seriously interested in purchasing the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this year. ESPN sources say he dropped out of the bidding when outgoing Milwaukee owner Herb Kohl demanded from any potential new owner that the team stay in that city. The Bucks were eventually sold to Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry for a purchase price of $550 million.
The potential value of the Clippers and the coverage of the controversy is expected to draw many potential investors, assuming the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver can legally force Sterling to sale the team.
Former NBA player Grant Hill is also being tied to an investment group, as well as former Microsoft exec Steve Ballmer, as well as Oprah Winfrey and David Geffen. Magic Johnson, who was at the center of the original controversy with Sterling, is also considering the buy with the same investments team that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.